Christmas musicals are easily the best type of Christmas movies as musicals can capture the Holiday spirit perfectly in a way that I don’t think most other holiday movies can.  This brings us to Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey which comes to us from David E. Talbert who not only directed this film but wrote the screenplay.  This Christmas musical coming out right now is more important than one might think.
Talbert first had the idea for this musical in 1998 and originally wanted to pitch it as a stage musical, which is very much felt in the design and presentation of the film but that is not what makes the film special. As Talbert is quoted as saying here.

 

I told him about the holidays and how much they mean to my family. But when we sit down every year, there’s nothing we can watch with anybody that looks like us. If we’re feeling this way as a family, imagine how many families around the world are feeling the same way?

This idea that so many of us may take for granted when we think of movies around or in general because, for the longest time, holiday movies were predominately White and I do not mean the snow.  Consider that it wasn’t until recently The Hallmark Channel makes enough Christmas movies to start airing them in July actually had a few with Black leads.

 

If we look at this through the lens of musical history, it’s all the more shocking and saddening when you consider that the Black community has so often been at the forefront of innovation and change in this artform.  In many regards, there wouldn’t be musical theater if it weren’t for the efforts of Black creatives.

 Speaking of that, this movie brings in quite a few big names from Forest Whittaker playing one of the leads, Keegan-Micael Key as the villain. John Legend helping with the music.  Phylicia Rashad as the film’s narrator.

As you can see this film is quite stacked.  So, how is it?  Good, really good.  If you have Netflix, watch this movie before I continue.

With that out of the way, let’s start the review.
The Plot
One of the strengths of this movie is that it doesn’t fall into the typical Christmas cliches of Santa or religion.  Instead, it focuses on family. We follow a genius toymaker,  Jeronicus Jangle that is ready to debut his newest toy, a sentient matador toy named Don Juan Diego.  This toy is the true villain of the piece as he is upset to learn that he will soon be mass-produced and convinces the toymaker’s apprentice, Gustafson to betray Jeronicus which he does as he has stolen his mentor’s notebook of toys and for thirty years has been named toymaker of the year.
Jeronicus is now in disarray as his toyshop Jangle and Things is now a struggling pawnbroking shop. And has to until Christmas to pay back the money the bank has loaned or come up with a radical new invention. We learn here that his granddaughter Journey shares his passion for inventing and has been sent by his daughter, Jessica to spend the holidays with him.

Gustafson meanwhile has become a successful toy inventor and always debuts the most waned toy of the year. In one of the coolest sequences.

 

I can’t confirm it, but the costuming in this number gave off powerful Emerald City vibes.  I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that part of Oz-inspired this number.  The Magic Man G as it were is about to debut his newest toy, the Twirly Whirly but it still has some kinks to iron out and this is the only invention that he didn’t steal.  The movie passes our villain off as not being a great inventor. However, I look at it as he doesn’t have confidence in himself and lets Don Juan walk all over him because of that.
Meanwhile, Jeronicus is working on this cute little robot that was first invented by his daughter, Jessica

And of course, our villain wants to steal Buddy for his own.  Buddy does come to life and this is where the movie takes on a bit of an Amblin tone with Buddy as he is the friendly robot that the kids have to recuse from the villain.  That is the main meat and potatoes of the movie, yes but it is also about an old man that has lost his lust for life reconnecting with his family through his granddaughter.  As for our villain well…

…he conducts a failed unveiling of Buddy. Gustafson orders Buddy destroyed, though Journey and Edison are able to retrieve it before it can happen. After realizing Journey and Edison have gone missing, Jeronicus goes to the factory. With help from Jeronicus and Buddy, Journey and Edison are able to escape the factory.

Interestingly, it takes on this Amblin feel when Buddy is introduced but it makes sense as this movie from the get-go had always had a bit of a classic family film feel to it.  Which greatly works in the film’s favor as that helps make it more memorable.

We find out later that Journey forged the letter inviting her to Jangles and Things as she wanted to meet her grandfather. Can’t exactly blame her, if I’m honest. She also wrote to Jessica on his behalf and Jessica comes and confronts her father and this is where we learn that he never stopped loving his daughter but didn’t think he could be the father his daughter needed but wishes to amend that now and wants to be in Journey’s life as well. He kept every letter that he tried to write to his daughter and honestly, it’s just heartbreaking.

As the film comes to a close, Gustafson and Diego confront Jeronicous and his family with the police claiming that they stole Buddy from him but Journey proves the truth as she marked the blueprints for Buddy.  Jeronicous removes the part from Don Juan that made him sentiment and later goes into mass production.  Jeroinoucs hives his former apprentice the piece that was needed for his twirly whirly and he prefects it while in jail.  Jangles and Things reopens and becomes the success that it once was.

Folks, this movie is good and I cannot suggest it enough.  Please watch it.  As I said at the beginning of this review, this art form that I love dearly wouldn’t exist without the contributions of Black Creatives and that is something that is felt throughout this movie. It celebrates the contributions of those that came before and those that are still working in the industry today. It may not have the deepest story but it doesn’t need that as it is just a fun family film that is sure to become a Christmas classic.

Narrator

Grandma Journey played Phylicia Rashad

 

Yeah, the story is told by an older Journey, which is a bit easy to figure out if you pay attention to the movie but it’s cute and Phylicia Rashad is good and brings a lot of warmth to her role as narrator and made the audience feel as though they were also sitting by the fireplace as she read the story to her young grandchildren.

Characters

Journey played by Madalen Mills

 

The most important aspect of this movie is the main character of Journey and the relationship that she has with her grandfather. If the audience isn’t invested in Journey, well they won’t want to go on the journey that this character goes through.  I joked with my mom and said that this is a STEM movie as well as a musical but no, it actually is.  And that is an element that is so important and having a young girl be interested in the field of STEM is great as for the longest time, the field of STEM has been male-dominated.  

Women make up only 28% of the workforce in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), and men vastly outnumber women majoring in most STEM fields in college.

This is something that one doesn’t even think about until after watching the movie because it uses math and science in a fantastical way that isn’t boring. It makes the idea of math and science seem exciting and fun. This is something that so class programs fail to get kids interested.  Taking this further and looking at this 2016 piece about girls of color and STEM also provides an interesting angle. 

Research shows girls can excel in STEM subjects when they feel confident in their math and science skills. And African American girls actually begin showing an inclination toward these fields even earlier than their peers.

The latter part of Africam American girls showing an earlier inclination in the field of STEM perfectly applies to Journey as she’s maybe ten but is already showing how smart she is and that if you challenge with her a problem, she can give you a solution even if you think it’s impossible.

Jeronicous played by Forest Whitaker

 

Whitaker as Jeronicous makes you care about him. Yes, his arc is one that we’ve seen before as a man that has lost everything he had and learning to open himself back up again. What sells it though is Whitaker’s acting as he makes you root for him to shed his exterior. That is why Journey is so important to his arc as she is the one that is able to crack his shell and so him in getting back in the world.

Supporting Characters

Miss Johnston played by Lisa Davina Phillip

 

This character is alright if a bit much.  Honestly, the only thing there is to her character is that she has a crush on Jeronicus and constantly calls him Jerry much to his annoyance. She’s not bad but I do think that she kinda overstays her welcome.

Edison played by Kieron L. Dyer

 

I liked this kid even if he didn’t add much other than being a friend for Journey and being Jeronicus’s apprentice.  Really didn’t get to know him how that well but still a good kid all around.

Jessica played by Anika Nani Rose

 

Jessica’s role in the movie is rather small but nonetheless important as she is the final piece in getting the Jangle family back together and to be the family they once were before the Jangle family had lost everything.

Music

I’m just going to link you to a playlist as it’s just easier.

This Day

The first number is a great starter as it really gets the audience hyped for the movie and really makes the audience excited for what is about to come. This is one of the greatest opening numbers I’ve heard in a long time.  It’s just so fun and hopeful.  As soon as I heard this number, I was hooked.

Borrow Indefinitely

This song is okay but there is a much better villain song later in the movie. This one isn’t bad but it doesn’t leave much of an impression on me.

Miles and Miles

I may not like Ms. Johnston but she does have a great song that really taps into the fun spirit of her character and you can’t help but tap along as you listen to it.

Not The Only One

This is a great introductory song to Journey.  Sure, this could come across as not being like other girls but I think it’s strong to stand on its own.  And I believe that it ties back to what I was talking about when looking at the strength of STEM and how important it is to show girls that it is okay to be interested in that kind of stuff.

Magic Man G

This is one of my favorite songs in the whole movie. It’s just so fun.  This is sure to become a classic villain song because it makes you fall in love with Keegan-Michael Key’s villain and you kinda want to buy what he’s selling. This song is just so much of a blast and one I’ll immediately add to my playlist for next year.

Square Root of Possible

I think this might be the icon song of the movie.  It continues on with the STEM theme that is so important to the movie but beyond that, it also speaks to how Journey will never give up and do whatever it takes to make things right.  It’s a beautiful song and one that really makes me feel for the young girl as she strikes out on her own.

Over and Over

Every musical has to have a heartbreaking number where everything seems lost and that is the case here with this song. It’s hauntingly beautiful as Jeronicus looks back on what he had and what he has lost. It is a beautiful song that will stay with you and you can hear the tears forming as you watch this number.

Grandpa Me Nie (Jingle Jangle Remix)

This number is a bit more lighthearted and fun and that works as it accompanies a snowball fight between grandfather and granddaughter.  This is perhaps the only song that doesn’t advance the story or give insight into the characters but I’m willing to overlook that because it comes at such a crucial moment as Jeronicus starts shedding his hardened layer.

Make It Work

This song has a double meaning as Jeronicous is singing of fixing Buddy while Jessica is singing of fixing her relationship with her father. I love songs like that.  Anika Nani Rose is the true star of this number as her vocals steal the show. It is just so mindblowing how good she is.  Just wow, this song is a masterclass in letting your voice be the star.

This Day (Reprise)

And we come full circle and end on a reprise of This Day.  Which works (heh) as it shows that the Jangle family is whole again. I like that. It’s rather sweet and while it’s not as bombastic as the first version, the understated nature is quite good in selling how far the family has come.

Villains

Gustafson played by Keegan-Micahel Key

 

Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson is a blast and while he is clearly evil, there is still a part of you that wants root for him because of how fun he is. Your heart breaks all the more at the end when you find out that Jeronicus would’ve given him the part that he needed for his twirly whirly.  It’s the idea of people aren’t born evil but rather influenced that way as seen here with how he willingly followed Don Juan.

Don Juan Diego voiced by Ricky Martin

Yeah, I don’t like this character. For a movie that is doing so much for progressiveness.  This character feels like a bad stereotype that is very outdated. I love this movie, I really do but the way that this character acts and presents himself feels at odds with the rest of the movie. It is just so jarring to have this character that doesn’t really work with the rest of the movie.

My Final Thoughts

For the most part, I enjoy this movie as I watched it twice before working on this review but there are just some hiccups that don’t work like the character of Don Juan.  Even with that said, I cannot suggest this movie enough. Please watch it as it is just so good.  Peace!

By Moviefan12

Disney Geek, Oncer, Brony, and Expressionist

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